In part two of our series on potential first-round matchups, we take a look at the Anaheim Ducks. Would the Edmonton Oilers benefit from playing the Ducks in the first round? Are they an ideal opponent on paper or should Edmonton hope to draw another club? A more in-depth look shows that the Oilers and Ducks are equally matched in many ways.
The Odds: Pretty Good to Play Each Other
I suppose to say the odds are pretty good is a bit of an exaggeration. Edmonton playing Anaheim has about the same likelihood as Edmonton playing San Jose, Calgary or any one of the many teams hovering around the 88 to 95 points marker right now. The Oilers and Ducks are only two points apart and if Edmonton wins on Tuesday and Anaheim loses to Vancouver, the Oilers could leapfrog from fifth and into second place, tied for points but passing Anaheim in the Western Conference — the race is that close.
The Ducks are easily the hottest team in the Western Conference. Going 8-1-1 in their last 10 games and winners of four in a row, they, along with the Oilers, are making the biggest moves forward as it pertains to the regular season standings. Anaheim won’t catch Chicago in first, but they could easily lock in second or third place.
The Ducks are a mix of skill and size but their top-end talent this season has to be viewed as slower and somewhat disappointing compared to previous years. Ryan Getzlaf has been strong, but he doesn’t appear to be what he once was, perhaps having lost a step. A four-assist game against the Rangers on March 26 now has him at 66 points on the season. He leads the way for a Ducks team who is closer to the bottom than the top of the NHL in total goals scored.
Behind him is Ryan Kesler with 53 points and Corey Perry with 48 points. Kesler is as steady as usual, but Perry’s production has dropped. With only two points in his last five games, the Ducks will need him to step up if they hope to make a long run in the postseason.
The shining stars for Anaheim have been Rickard Rakell who has 32 goals on the season and Jakob Silfverberg who is having a career year. Both are young, both have skill and both are likely the future of the Ducks offense.
Like the Ducks, some of the Oilers higher-end talents have had a disappointing season. Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were looked upon to play larger roles this year and while both are coming on stronger toward the end of the season, Edmonton needs them to find another level as secondary scorers — or at least be more consistent — offensively. If they can do so, the team could even more dangerous than they already are.
What the Oilers have now that Anaheim doesn’t is that top-tier skill. Connor McDavid and Leon Drasiaitl are in the NHL’s top-ten in scoring, while Anaheim’s closest is Getzlaf who holds spot 17. No other Anaheim player can be found inside the top-50 scorers.
Head-to-head, the Oilers and Ducks are almost dead-even over the 2016-17 regular season. In four games, each team has won twice. Two of the games have been close contests while two have been lopsided — each team coming out on the positive side of the ledger at least once in those lopsided games.
Edmonton’s top-end scorers have produced the offense with McDavid, Draisaitl and Patrick Maroon leading the way. For Anaheim, it’s been Getzlaf and Rakell.
The goaltending has been evenly matched. Cam Talbot has a 2.80 goals against average (GAA) versus Anaheim while Ducks’ starter John Gibson posted a 2.62 GAA versus the Oilers over his three games. Their respective save percentages were close as well.
Where Edmonton seems to have the upper hand is in three key areas.
First, their elite-level scoring is better than Anaheim’s. McDavid and Draisaitl have been strong all season and can be counted on to score and make big plays over the entire course of a playoff series. They are getting hotter and hotter as the season comes to a close and will carry that momentum into the postseason.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) March 28, 2017
Second, the Oilers appear to be slightly better on the defensive side. Oscar Klefbom and Cam Fowler seem to be fairly evenly matched. But, Edmonton has Andrej Sekera offensively who is also in that range of production. After Fowler, Anaheim’s top-end blue takes a bit of a hit. Don’t be fooled, the Ducks blue line is young and talented, but Edmonton’s appears to be deeper and grittier thanks to players like Adam Larsson, Kris Russell and Darnell Nurse.
Finally, the Oilers are just as heavy as Anaheim but are clearly faster than the Ducks. If the series comes down to a speed contest, Edmonton should have the advantage.
The regular season series has been close, but Edmonton has the edge in a playoff contest. Over the course of a single playoff round, the Oilers have more scoring, more speed and more talent. It would be a fun matchup, but one the Oilers can win and advance forward from. I don’t mind if Edmonton winds up playing Anaheim in the first round. I expect Edmonton would move on.